JULY 3, 2011
I recently got the 4th and 5th Prophecy films to review, but since I hadn’t seen The Prophecy II or III, I had to backtrack a bit. III is on Netflix Instant (look for that one tomorrow or so), but not this one, so I 'had' to buy a used copy. All in the name of continuity! Of course, I later learned that 4 and 5 were, like a lot of DTV Dimension movies, unrelated spec scripts that were molded into Prophecy films, so I doubt there’s much of a connection anyway, but alas. I like to go in informed.
What’s surprising, then, is that (the DTV) Prophecy II truly is a legitimate sequel, even bringing back the Thomas Daggett character from the first film despite not having the dough (I assume) to get the same actor. But buried under a beard, low lighting, and the fact that his appearance is fleeting, it’s not too much of an issue that Elias Koteas has been replaced by Bruce Abbott (Dan Cain!), as there’s enough of a passing resemblance to let it slide (it’s not like the pre-Nolan Batman series where they changed Harvey Dent’s RACE, for Christ’s sake). They also bring back Steve Hytner (Bania!) as the morgue guy, another unexpected connection that showed they were putting a little more effort into this than say, Hellraiser: Hellworld.
And of course, Walken is back. A quick glance at his exceptionally long resume reveals that Gabriel is the only film character he got to play more than once*, and he’s clearly enjoying himself and bringing his A-game despite the fact that this was, for all intents and purposes, a cheap DTV sequel to a moderately successful horror movie. Gabriel is easily one of his better characters; a perfect fit for his unusual acting style – who better to play a guy not of this earth? The new writers did a great job of recreating his “tics”, such as his inability to use modern devices – Brittany Murphy takes over for Adam Goldberg as a would-be suicide who is forced to help him in order to “earn” her death, and gets the film’s best line in the process when he makes her use a computer: “You’re keeping me alive because you don’t know DOS?” They find a way to make him say “Monkeys” a few times too many, but otherwise it’s a successful continuation of his story even though original writer Gregory Widen wasn’t involved (or at least, credited) with the script this time around.
I also like that it wasn’t a copy of the original. It’s still about the warring angels taking their battle to Earth (gotta love how much these movies have influenced Supernatural), but this time they take a page from Star Wars and have them fighting over a child (half angel/half human) who can supposedly end the war when he becomes of age. It’s not quite as interesting or novel as the original, of course, and our new heroes aren’t as interesting as Koteas and Virginia Madsen (whose character isn’t even mentioned, though involving her again would be silly), but the decision to bring back the few characters that they did and see what they were up to instead of recycling the story was a wise one. I did miss the mystery angle though; one thing I loved about the original is that it took its time to explain what exactly what was happening, but there’s not a lot of vagueness here – you can pretty much tell what Russell Wong’s character is up to five seconds after he is introduced.
I just wonder if the original script was more fleshed out, with ideas being tossed aside either to satisfy the budget and/or the fact that “Dimension” and “interesting story” aren’t exactly synonymous. The original film is not only one of the best horror films to come along in the pre-Scream 90s, it also remains one of the company’s best movies ever; a winning combination of theology and supernatural horror, with A-caliber actors and a wonderful dry sense of humor as icing on the cake. But that was BEFORE the Weinsteins began interfering with their properties as much as they did; even though it was delayed for a while (it was shot in 1993 but released in 1995), it would have been far more dire had it come along in the later 90s, when Harvey and Bob were mangling pretty much every movie that they could.
Here, it seems that they were sort of slicing away at “boring” stuff. The climax is remarkably rushed, with Eric Roberts showing up and mumbling some stuff before everyone just starts tossing each other around with lots of folks (angels and humans) being impaled in the process. There’s a nice bit between Walken and heroine Jennifer Beals (the one carrying the all-important child), but it’s just that: a bit. They spend more time on the slo-mo shot of them falling to their apparent deaths than they do on the conversation that preceded it. Then it ends on a ridiculous CGI face in the clouds and some voiceover after a truly awful final line from Beals. Also, one character’s death is dealt with so abruptly I wasn’t even aware he was really dead until it became clear he wasn’t coming back. It’s a short flick (82 minutes, the original was just under 100 if memory serves), and so I couldn’t help wonder if there wasn’t a little more to it that got excised either before it was even shot, or once Bob barged his way into the editing room.
The short time is also unbalanced, with more time given to Walken and Murphy than Beals and Wong (as the good angel/father of the child). Their bits are not without entertainment value (I particularly like when he asks how to use a gun and she instantly tries to blow herself away), but I could have used 1-2 less scenes with them (or just shortening; the scene where he “recruits” her seemingly goes on forever) and as many more with our heroes, who meet and end up in bed five movie minutes later, and don’t have a lot of interaction after that as she goes off and investigates the events of the first movie while he does that thing where an angel senses another angel about to attack and sort of preemptively dives toward a window to begin the fight (Danzig, of all people, is one of these ass-kicker angels).
But overall, a worthy followup (factoring in the smaller budget/lack of freshness to the concept) and it got me more excited for the others, even though Walken only sticks around for one more before heading off to talk to kangaroos and Country Bears and what not. And it reminded me of how much I dig the original – I wish they would do a proper DVD special edition of it. Alas, it seems the franchise is in the hands of Echo Bridge now (they have parts 3-5 anyway), and they’re seemingly not interested in special editions, so I shouldn’t hold my breath.
What say you?
*I think, anyway. The only sequels I recognized on his resume were to movies he wasn’t involved with the first time around (such as Batman Returns). If I’m wrong let me know!